To

Shri Jagat Prakash Nadda

Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare,
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare,
Nirman Bhavan, Maulana Azad Road,
New Delhi 110 011

 

Date: 29 March 2018

Subject:  Request urgent attention to videos credited to the NHM and PC&PNDT cell Rajasthan for review and withdrawal.

    Dear Shri J.P Naddaji,

We, the concerned health networks, women’s groups, civil society organizations and individuals would like to draw your urgent attention to the two videos titled ‘Daughters are Precious’ and ‘Community Engagement for Saving Daughters in Rajasthan’ that are available online and bear the logo of the National Health Mission (NHM) and include credits to the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) cell of the National Health Mission, Rajasthan.

 

We strongly condemn the content of these animation-videos, which are deplorable and extremely anti-abortion in their content. We urge you to ensure that these videos are immediately withdrawn from circulation.

The videos follow the growth of the foetus over several weeks, with the text referring to the foetus as “baby” and stating developmental milestones – for example, the “baby has fingerprints”, the “baby can feel tickling”, “the baby can feel pain”, etc. The video also provides voice to the foetus who “speaks” to the mother.  The video at the point of three months into the pregnancy has the foetus saying “why are you so worried….I don’t like this doctor……..” and the accompanying text reads “At 3 months the baby is already formed; he (emphasis ours) has only to grow”. This is followed by –

“But his mother and doctor are already discussing how to KILL him”

“How are babies murdered by their own mothers, there are four ways, all are cruel and inhuman”

“Which way the baby will go, either way he will suffer”

The voice returns to say “what is this noise…. Mother, I am scared……..”

Further, the videos describe  in detail four methods (of abortion), the first method is the Vacuum Suction Method (Vacuum Aspiration Method) which is described as ‘like a vacuum cleaner cleaning up dirt, the baby comes out in little pieces!’ or ‘the baby’s body is cut up in small pieces and then taken out’ (शिशुके शरीर के छोटेछोटे टुकड़े कर बाहर निकालते हैं). The second method it describes is ‘ The Cutting Up Method’ (Dilation and Curettage) which is described as ‘the doctor just slice the baby to pieces inside the mother’ and ‘माँ के पेट के अन्दर ही शिशु को काटकर मार दिया जाता है’, the third method described is ‘The Surgical Method’ which is described as ‘the doctor takes the baby out by surgical opening in the abdomen’ and ‘शिशु को सर्जरी  के जरिये बाहर  निकाल दिया जाता है and the fourth method is ‘The Salt Method’ which is described as ‘A salt solution is injected into amniotic sac . Baby is burned to death!’ and ‘नमक के घोल को गर्भाशय मेंइंजेक्ट कर शिशु को जलाकर मार दिया जाता है’ and the video then ends with the text:  “Now you know how your baby will be killed, Will you still do it?” and “Which method will you use to kill your Daughter??????”

The videos are quite emphatically anti-abortion, the text and voice employ terms such as “killing” “murder” and the reference to the foetus as “baby”. Additionally, the content implies the “cruelty” and “inhumanity” of the mother as well as the doctor – abortion provider through a detailed, dramatic textual description and voice to describe the diverse methods used to “kill” the “baby”. Further, the text of the video implies a male foetus while the voice claims to be a “girl”.

The articulation of abortion as “killing” “murder” is extremely regressive, it stigmatizes abortion as well as judges all girls and women who access it. Thus, these messages create further barriers to access to comprehensive, safe abortion care and inevitably result in the loss of women’s health and lives.  The animation videos are undoubtedly violative of the human rights of women, their bodily autonomy, their rights to make decisions about their bodies and pregnancies.

Moreover, the videos overlook the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTPA), which provides legal sanction to terminate a pregnancy, albeit in a very limited manner and with several conditionalities. They also overlook the National Health Mission (NHM) guideline on ‘Ensuring Access to Safe Abortion and Addressing Gender Biased Sex Selection’, MoHFW 2015 (http://www.nhm.gov.in/images/pdf/programmes/maternal-health/guidelines/Safe_Abortion_and_Gender_Guidance_Handbook.pdf), which calls upon public health professionals and activists to “actively ensure that that over-zealous implementation of the law for one issue does not negatively impact the other”.  It acknowledges “the challenges in simultaneously addressing gender biased sex selection while protecting women’s access to safe, legal abortion services” but says that the “guidance is expected to provide information for making sustained efforts towards addressing both issues”.  The animation- videos thus violate the guidance issued the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The Rajasthan Government’s PC&PNDT Cell’s concerns about sex selection are not unfounded, given that the State has one of the worst child sex ratios in the country at 888 female children per 1000 male children (Census 2011). While the state must adopt measures to address this adverse impact of gender inequality, it must be done in a way that does not demonize girls and women, abortion service providers and medical procedures for abortion,  which continue to remain largely inaccessible.

Moreover, while awareness against discrimination and gender biased selection is necessary, there is also an urgent need to spread awareness about the legal status and information regarding the availability of comprehensive abortion care. Women, girls and even health care providers are frequently in the dark about the legal provisions under the MTPA as well as about the MoHFW guidance for access to safe abortion. Information resources and public campaigns on this are negligible as compared to those available for sex-selection.

We urge the NHM and the PC&PNDT Cell, Rajasthan to urgently review the content and public messaging and strategies against sex selection and for enabling access to safe abortion, towards ensuring that these are not biased and moralistic. We urge you to ensure that these messages and campaigns speak and act against gender based discrimination, the devaluation of girls and women in society, but not at the cost of violating girls’ and women’s autonomy and rights.

Endorsed by-

  1. Deepa Venkatachalam, Sama- Resource Group for Women and Health
  2. Prabha Nagaraja, Talking About Reproductive and Sexual Health Issues (TARSHI
  3. Manisha Gupte, Co-Convenor, Mahila Sarvangeen Utkarsh Mandal (MASUM), Pune
  4. Dr. Sunil Kaul, The Ant, Assam
  5. Sarojini Nadimpally, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan
  6. Deepika Joshi, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Chhattisgarh
  7. Dr. Shakeel Ur Rehman, Centre For Health and Resource Management (CHARM), Bihar
  8. The YP Foundation
  9. Subha Sri, Common Health
  10. Anuradha Kapoor, Swayam, Kolkata
  11. Sulakshana Nandi, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Chhattisgarh
  12. Dr. Shilpa Shroff, Assistant Coordinator, Asia Safe Abortion Partnership (ASAP)
  13. Meena Seshu/ Aarthi Pai, Sangram
  14. Kiran Deshmukh, Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad (VAMP )
  15. Girls Count
  16. Veena Johari, Advocate, Courtyard Attorneys
  17. Kandala Singh, Public Health Resource Network (PHRN)
  18. Renu Khanna, SAHAJ
  19. Action India, Delhi
  20. Maternal Health Rights Campaign (MHRC), Madhya Pradesh
  21. National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights (NAMHHR)
  22. Sanjeev Sinha, Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samithi (BGVS)/ Jan Swasthya Abhiyan Uttar Pradesh
  23. Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Forum Against Sex Selection (FASS)
  24. Gouranga Mohapatra, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Odisha
  25. Abhijit Das, Centre for Health and Social Justice (CHSJ)
  26. Dr. V Rukmini Rao, Executive Director, Gramya Resource Centre for Women, Telangana
  27. Saheli Women, Delhi
  28. R Srivatsan, Senior Fellows, Anveshi Research Centre for Women’s Studies, Hyderabad
  29. Karnataka Janaarogya Chaluvali
  30. Health Watch Forum, Uttar Pradesh
  31. Mukti Bosco, Healing Fields Foundation, Hyderabad
  32. Prof. Imrana Qadeer, Delhi
  33. Farah Naqvi, Writer and Activist, Delhi
  34. Dr. Janaki  Abraham, University of Delhi
  35. Prof. Rajni Palriwala, University of Delhi
  36. Prof. Uma Chakravarti, Delhi
  37. Dr. Amar Jesani, Mumbai
  38. Prof. Mary E John, Delhi
  39. DrAnant Phadke, Pune
  40. Pro f Lakhsmi Lingam, Mumbai
  41. Prof. Rama Baru, Delhi
  42. Ravi Duggal, Mumbai
  43. Dr. Veena Shatrugna, Hyderabad
  44. Prof . Mohan Rao, Delhi
  45. Anubha Rastogi, Advocate, Mumbai
  46. Suneeta Dhar, Delhi
  47. Rosamma Thomas, Jaipur
  48. Saurav Pandey
  49. Padma Prakash, Social Activist
  50. Sumi Krishna, Bengaluru
  51. Abha Bhaiya
  52. Swarna Rajagopalan
  53. Malini Ghose, Delhi
  54. Sunita Bandewar, Pune
  55. Jashodhara Dasgupta, New Delhi
  56. Radha Holla Bhar
  57. Shruti Arora, Feminist Activist
  58. Brajaraj Sundar Ghosh
  59. Amrita Shodhan
  60. Nisha Biswas
  61. Ritu Dewan
  62. Rita Manchanda
  63. Teena Gill
  64. Pamela Philipose, Delhi
  65. Dr. Vandana Prasad, Delhi
  66. Dr Prabir Chatterjee
  67. Dr Narendra Gupta, Rajasthan
  68. Dr Sunita Bandewar, Pune
  69. Pallavi Gupta, Public Health Professional, New Delhi
  70. Indira Chakravarthi, Public Health Researcher
  71. Jahnvi Andharia, Specialist-Gender and Development
  72. Jagdish Patel, Gujarat
  73. Shahbaz Khan Shervani
  74. Manu Aggarwal, Delhi
  75. Jyoti Rajput, Udaipur
  76. Swatija Manorama, Mumbai
  77. Deeksha Singh, Delhi
  78. Dr Prabir Chatterjee
  79. Dr Narendra Gupta
  80. Dr. Nidhin Joseph
  81. Dr. Sejal Tambat.
  82. Anand Philip
  83. Nashata Hayatullah, Lucknow
  84. Padma Bhate-Deosthali
  85. Souvik Pyne
  86. Geetha Nambisan, Delhi
  87. Runu Chakraborty, Delhi
  88. Manish Kumar, Udaipur
  89. Amita Pitre, Consultant, Public Health and Gender Justice
  90. Noyana Khatoniar, Delhi
  91. Sandhya Phadke
  92. S Maya , Kerala
  93. Dr. Rina Mukherji , Journalist & Researcher, Pune
  94. Saswati Ghosh, Academic and activist
  95. Devaki Nambiar, Public Health Practitioner
  96. Subhash Mendhapurkar
  97. Gita Chadha
  98. Shewli Kumar, Associate Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
  99. Maya Philomaya, Kerala
  100. Megha Kain, Delhi
  101. Ruchi Bharagava, Delhi
  102. Rizu, Delhi
  103. Ojaswini Bakshi, Delhi
  104. Pallavi Gahlaut, Delhi

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